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The Accounting Technology Lab Podcast – Overview of the 2024 AICPA Engage Conference – June 2024

Hosts Randy Johnston and Brian Tankersley, CPA, discuss the 2024 AICPA Engage conference, held in June in Las Vegas.

Hosts Randy Johnston and Brian Tankersley, CPA, discuss the 2024 AICPA Engage conference, held in June in Las Vegas. The conference is the largest annual gathering of firm professionals, providing education, technology updates, and networking opportunities.

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Transcript (Note: There may be typos due to automated transcription errors.)

Brian F. Tankersley, CPA.CITP, CGMA  00:00

Brian F. Tankersley, CPA.CITP, CGMA  00:00

Welcome to the accounting Technology Lab sponsored by CPA practice advisor. With your hosts, Randy Johnston, and Brian Tankersley.

Randy Johnston  00:10

Welcome to the accounting Technology Lab, Brian and I are very happy to talk to you about the recent AICPA engage conference held in 2024. Now, this really went over the period of June to out through June 6, or seventh. And the end of that week was really filled with lots of different items. And we have separate podcasts for you on the accounting leader Think Tank symposium, if you haven’t listened to that, you may do that, because that’s how Brian and I started her Sunday.

But we also finished our Sunday by attending the thought leader event where Barry probably did his last hurrah, his last presentation as CEO of the AICPA. And, uh, you know, he was asked questions by Eric asker son that night and talked about lots of different things. You were lucky enough, Brian have a bit of an extended conversation with him. And of course, we’ve been watching that buck, we started off the week with a, I thought a very moving and insightful presentation done by Eric weinan. Meyer, who is a blind mountain climber, and he does all sorts of things, including whitewater rafting, blind and so forth. But his idea is no limits. Now for those of you who have attended our K two events for a long time, the co founder of his organization I’ve talked about who was also a mountain climber who lost his legs and now is created artificial legs over at MIT. I mean, this this guy is top bloody drawer to listen to. But you and I are well, after that.

Then there was a bit of a professional issues update with Dan hood asking Barry, a melon Swan and Karla McCall, the AICPA Vice Chair various questions, and then you and I got a good chance to do Tech Update together. Many people know that I’ll do tech update by myself. But you and I co write a lot of that content. And, you know, I thought you’d done a nice job leading with AI. So what were some of the key things that we talked about in Tech Update, and then we’ll talk more about AICPA engage?

Brian F. Tankersley, CPA.CITP, CGMA  02:29

Well, I think the and I appreciate you letting me get on the big stage this time, it was a it was nice for the Institute to, to accommodate that. And to let us do that, you know, it’s a, I think we, we do better when I think all of us do better when we can kind of go back and forth and everything. And I think we did some of that during this event. And it was good. I talked quite a bit about AI. And I think the I think the general thing with AI is that it’s coming fast. We don’t know how it’s going. We don’t know how it’s gonna land, we know where it’s gonna land. It will change what we do. And the world will look differently in five to 10 years in ways we can’t imagine. But, you know, you that was that was the major, major thing. I guess we had there. Subsequent to that, of course, we’ve had the apple announcements on AI and their relationship with with open AI. And and you know, I think just like we said, just like I said, I think that it is going to change the way we work and the things we do in many ways. And you know, we’re are it’s it’s not done yet. It’s still early days.

Randy Johnston  03:38

Yeah. Well, of course, I took off then with quantum computing. And of course, we’ve done a an episode on quantum computing and I I get the opportunity shortly to work with Michio Kaku, who is his book I admire greatly. And, yeah, I’m anxious to see that but one of my conclusions in tech update which is important for our listeners, is effective. Today. The day you’re hearing this podcast, you no longer buy the same computer equipment that you do in the past. The new thing is neural processing units are in P us and in the Intel world. Those are named core Ultra. You don’t want to buy cores and the old naming convention high five, seven nines, those are all gone. You want core Ultras which have the neural processing units, the new AMD chips, not all of them have neural processing units, but you only want to buy in the US and of course the Snapdragon X elite will be shipping and is shipping June 18 with the Microsoft a copilot of surface Microsoft Surface copilot plus unit which will be the first am sorry Snapdragon part Aren’t chip, thank you for a Windows environment. And of course, there’s been new code to support that prism that is working there. But again, friends, listen this carefully. Never buy another laptop or desktop that doesn’t have NP use in it. And for the first time since 2016, where I’ve recommended buying dedicated GPUs, the integrated GPUs have become fast enough that they’re probably okay, so you can buy chips that have integrated GPUs. So all of this techie geeky speak, says, we’re now going to have processors that run AI imbues, we’re going to have enough integrated graphic processing units to do all the rest of the load. And the cost of these will be about same as what you’ve been spinning, you just need to buy the right stuff. So you know, that’s what we did with Tech Update. And then, of course, we went on for other software topics. And again, as part of the accounting Technology Lab, weekly, we try to bring you the breaking or important pieces, breaking news, important pieces about various technologies. And we tried to do that in a little more depth with him. So I don’t know that there’s other super radical things from Tech Update, you know, the Wi Fi seven, the unify company in late May now has four shipping units instead of just one. The one Pro that they were shipping at $189 was a great pie, but they now have outdoor units, and they have a higher density Promax unit. But all of these things are only 189 to $229 for Wi Fi seven, I mean, that’s pretty much a guess

Brian F. Tankersley, CPA.CITP, CGMA  06:50

I will say that one of the one of the purchases I have to make this year is I have to replace my SonicWALL. And I’m probably going to go with the latest Gen ubiquity Dream Machine, which is about $1,000. It does. And I’m going to probably replace some of my wireless access points with these Wi Fi seven devices, just because it’s it absolutely makes sense. And I’m going to warn you on the ubiquity stuff, it’s cool, it works great. If you’re not an alpha geek, and have never worked with ubiquity before, you want to get somebody that has to help you. Okay, because this is not, if you’re not a technical if you’re not a if you’re not an IT technical person, the setup of that of it, you have to have a controller controller server. Fortunately, if you do the ubiquity dream machine, it has one of those controller servers built in. But but that part of the setup is going to be like a foreign language to you if you’ve never worked with enterprise enterprise IT hardware. So I you know, as excited as I am about those tools. And I think you can figure it out if you’re willing to put in the work, but you should not expect that out of the box experience. That is that is the same as when you bought a linksys wrt 54 G 10 years ago, you plugged it in, and it just worked, okay? Because because you have to do some configuration on these things. Well, Brian,

Randy Johnston  08:13

and I had a couple of other things that we wanted to talk about. So that’s a tiny bit of tech there. But, you know, on June 4, that Tuesday, a session on unlocking the future, navigating the accounting talent pipeline was given and involves Sue Coffee and Lexie Kessler and Okorie Ramsey and Jennifer Wilson, of course, there’s been a project for about 18 months on the pipeline. And, uh, you know, the talent pipeline issues gonna continue to be a problem. Some of the initial conclusions, but you can read this for yourself in the larger report, is that the CPA profession is generally underpaying talent, which is part of the reason they’re having trouble attracting it, that the number of students entering the pipeline continues to be below what’s needed to fill the jobs that are out there. Of course, we’ve had more retirements creep during the pandemic, you know, pandemic came along, a lot of people bailed at that point, but post pandemic, a lot of the people that probably would have retired for the pandemic finally did exit so we’re seeing a pretty radical changing of the guard is really the key. And, Brian, I think we saw the changing of the guard on the show floor as much as anywhere because you and I both work the exhibit hall on Monday. And you know, I’m gonna just set this all up by saying I have never seen so many efforts made to sell products. We had two full rooms, reported to be 330 vendors on the floor. I tried to make sure that least aware it was aware of who all was there. But for example, one of the vendors that I was happy to find was a company called Sam, which has on the shore outsourcing. So instead of offshore outsourcing, it’s basically US based, but we saw all sorts of other things.

Brian F. Tankersley, CPA.CITP, CGMA  10:19

I love that show floor so much, because I can get more done in a half day of walking aisles and having conversations and catching up with old friends than I can get done. proactively reaching out and doing research from my home office. I mean, I get I get so much stuff fixed. You know, what’s great about that, is that, you know, you run into somebody you talk to them, they say, Oh, well, I have problem XYZ. Well, let’s go see Bill cornfields and talk about, or let’s go see Jeff, Jeff Kopeck, at ProStaff and talk about scheduling, you know, and so it’s so nice, because everybody’s there. Okay, now, there was an appearance at the show floor. However, I felt like the whole the whole event almost felt like a debutante ball for private equity. And and you and I both remarked that the presence of private equity in the private equity conversations was was amazing. You know, you’ve been speaking at that conference for going on 40 years. I’ve been I was on the committee for, I don’t know, seven or eight years, seven or eight, nine years. And I’ve been at it for north of 10 years. And the thing that really struck me about the whole thing was, you know, we were we you know, you see here, you and I were talking earlier, you reminded me that when we went to the Starbucks inside the inside the event, there’s probably 20 tables there. So, and there were 20 different conversations with different PE people taking place, it was almost like the Starbucks was the was the the funding date site. You know, it was like we were having speed dating for funding with PE almost, but you know, it wasn’t organized like that on a formal basis. But it was it was striking how many times you would look and you would see people meeting and the P people would be meeting with them. So I thought that was that was an interesting part of the whole event. You know, we talked about the P Impact in in the, in the thought leader thought leader interchange event that happened on the on the Sunday before that before this in a previous podcast. But it was that the people were there, and they were in force, and they looked like they were ready to deal. I mean, I felt under there’s so many you know, you can always spot them too, because they always had on a sport coat and slacks, where everybody else would have on just a shirt. And it was it was amazing how you would just see the uniform show up and you knew what was happening.

Randy Johnston  12:55

That’s kind of an interesting way to say it. My guesstimate Brian is there were around 50 pe representatives. And they were meeting with software companies and with firms trying to make deals. And just to give you a sense of this recent reading that I’ve done says that P has about a trillion dollars in dry powder to make deals with. And the volume is, you know, ticking up. And so it was really stunning. How many people actually had back to back meetings about every half hour. So just picture that you’ve got, you know, a two three day period with meetings every half hour, how many meetings that you can get done, and that’s what we were watching unfold. Also, I just noticed that there were a variety of people around the periphery of the event, not wild about that on these big events. Because, you know, the organizers and sponsors create content in tracks, you know, we’re seeing the exhibit halls we’re seeing and so forth. But I’ve been amazed how, as of late, people will look the same hotel set up in the Starbucks and do all sorts of meetings that have no tie to the event whatsoever. They’re just there to sell their services.

Brian F. Tankersley, CPA.CITP, CGMA  14:17

You know, you know, but I gotta say the same thing I said about the show floor you know, those, you don’t get that assembly of people to make deals and to solve problems very often. That’s probably one of two or three events in the country that are like that, you know, the upcoming scaling new heights put on by Woodard is another one like that, where you can get just about any kind of problem solved that you want with vendors and with practitioners and other things but I I love that event for that reason.

Randy Johnston  14:50

Yeah, understood. And we’ll talk to you about scaling new heights in a future accounting Technology Lab podcast because I’m embedding will have insights from that as Well, but it was interesting because again, it’s kind of deal making, and the you know, that part of it, I hope, advance the profession. The other thing that you and I were blessed with, and I’m just going to use that word, the number of accounting software, sorry, software vendors, let’s just keep it more general, because it wasn’t just a county that showed us new generations of product that they were going to release over the summer or later in the year, they were showing us the prototypes. Now, those things are under nondisclosure. So we’re not going to discuss them today. But I gotta tell you, a half a dozen things that we saw that were not in the market yet. And I’m just saying, that’s really good stuff. That’s really good advancement. And so I don’t want you to think that we’re certainly not being Negative Nelly is here. This was overall a super positive event, I am so pleased that you and I were invited, and that we’ve had the involvement in engage all these years, just to also give a number we have not laid out yet. Reportedly 4000 attendees with about 1000 supporting vendors and staff, maybe 1200 or so about a 5000 person event, bookings were in the ARIA hotel and the MGM next to it, and so forth. So it was, it was a big event with a lot of coverage. And bottom line was quite worthwhile in my mind to be presenting, and to be able to interact, there were also a good number of people that, you know, I saw across the room, and I just didn’t get to talk to I couldn’t use twice the amount of time there. Just interact. But boy talk about worthwhile. Yeah,

Brian F. Tankersley, CPA.CITP, CGMA  16:47

you know, the, the the one the meeting, I think about that, that was so that was the most rewarding for me was probably the one where we got to see the folks from quickfee, and the folks from Nula that had set up their integration together. And we’re starting to, you know, they were trying to figure out ways to to work together in here. And I think that’s the I think that’s the future of a lot of the independent software vendors in the industry is that they’ve got to figure out ways to work together. And we’ve seen where carbon is working with a lot of folks. And we’ve seen less accounting, and we’ve seen many other products in the marketplace, that that try to help solve this, this integration piece, and this making things making things to be truly seamless. And I was I was very, very excited to see, again, Jamie and Jennifer had worked together, and it was very clear that, you know, they, they have the vision, and they are going to take that that vision places. And I’m excited about,

Randy Johnston  17:51

you know, I’m glad you call that out. Because, uh, you know, those two companies both have products that we’ve talked about, and other accounting Technology Labs, the new announcement basically allows you to do an end to end engagement letter on boarding all the way out through payment receipt, by using the combination platform, and of course, but you know, quick fee has the advantage of funding technology in addition to buy now pay later and, and all sorts of other really, in my mind critical features to payment transactions. And of course, that Nullah with their engagement, letter processing has a very good overall process. So I’m looking at three or four in in processes of engagement letters through payments that are well done. But this alliance shows a lot of promise. And of course, there’s a great example. You know, we finished that meeting and, you know, we bumped into, you know, old friends from Thomson Reuters that, you know, then wanted some help when well, it’s like, Jennifer, for quick fees right down here. You know, Jennifer, yeah, but I haven’t seen her longtime let’s wander you down there. And that, like you said, on the show floor, you get the ability to just make the introductions, get things to happen. And when somebody has a particular issue, it’s like, here’s how you go talk to and by the way, they’re over there in that booth, you know, just like at the Wolters Kluwer Bruce, you know, we saw people that can make things happen inside their booth on the floor.

Brian F. Tankersley, CPA.CITP, CGMA  19:33

And, you know, we and you know, there’s there’s people there that you’ll see like candy cross at at Thompson, who has been at Thompson for 20 plus years, probably closer to 25. But has forgotten more about the inside baseball of how you get problems solved in that organization, and is willing to help people you know, and that’s that’s the most rewarding part of this is that you have you have all these people would have been all spread across the world beating their heads against the wall trying to figure out how to solve this problem. And you just, it’s it’s so rewarding to be able to walk over and say you to talk amongst yourselves. I’ll give you a topic integration, you know, and they they can work it out. And it’s a, you know, it’s it’s, I think it’s one of the most important events to attend. If you’re if you’re doing what we do, or again, doing consulting in the profession, just because the people that you’re that are there you just that that assembly of people that ability to make things happen. I mean, if you’re not scheduled 18 hours a day, you’re not taking full advantage. But

Randy Johnston  20:42

yeah, so I hesitate to say how many new products that Brian and I discovered I, I forced him to go back and look at a product that I had found in the exhibit hall and said, Look at this, and look what it does look at this, look what it does. And we will be covering those in future podcasts. I’m sure we’re getting, we’ve got to vet them a little bit. Because in all of those cases, they were brand new, you know, I’ve never seen, for example, the product out of the UK or the product out of San Diego are the product out of Sacramento. You know, I haven’t seen any of those before. It’s like I thought I was pretty clued up. And how did those people get under our radar? Well,

Brian F. Tankersley, CPA.CITP, CGMA  21:21

the thing I think that’s happening too, is that the VC and PE influx, or the PE folks are mandating the tech stacks, and the P folks are mandating the the adoption of modern technologies, I think in many cases, they’re elevating products that are that that are surfacing, and are being created to have technology solve these problems. And these are not coming from the traditional vendors. So you know, people coming out of left field is is much more normal than that. And it’s again, it’s another reason that’s in my mind, one of the best conferences in the country. understood well, and it’s a close race between that one and then the one we’re going to in a week or two.

Randy Johnston  22:07

Yep. Understood, Brian. So that said one other key things would you want our listeners to know about this year’s AICPA engage?

Brian F. Tankersley, CPA.CITP, CGMA  22:16

Well, like Randy said, but very Milan sign is retiring is the chair of the AICPA this year, that is a that is huge. Barry Melanson is the AICPA. And so figuring out who the next who the next CEO of AICPA is going to be, is going to be, there’s going to be a lot of a lot of drama surrounding that. I expect you’ll see some senior leaders turn over at AICPA not necessarily because of anything, but you know, again, if you’re, you know, if you’re if you’re looking at this situation, and you wanted the job and you don’t get it, you know, it’s I could see how they might want to go do something different. We’ve had, I will say that one of the one of the dinners I had the opportunity to attend was invited to one by Liz Farr and Rick Tilburg and Seth Feinberg on disruptors, and had a very interesting conversation with was able to sit next to a gentleman that that buys and sells small CPA practices. And we had some we had, we had a number of people at the table in the software vendors, the, you know, the brokers, we had just all kinds of folks at the table. And we were able to have some very, very interesting conversations about what the future looks like and about, about how, how we can take advantage of these things, you know, it’s, again, it’s, it’s nice to see these old friends. But it’s, it’s, it’s just intellectually refreshing to be able to interact with them and to, to, you know, talk to him about these things and see what’s going on between their heads and kind of take a kind of take, take their temperature on where the profession is, you know, the I think you are going to see a significant amount of consolidation in the, in the industry, and I think you’re gonna see a significant amount of private equity in there. However, when we talk to some of the folks that were actually involved in some of the transactions, it’s very clear that some of the private equity folks have absolutely no clue with respect to how to run an accounting firm, based on the due diligence requests and other things like that. So I think we’re gonna have a rocky year or two here. And I’m, I’m very excited about where it’s going. Because I think we’re going places that we should have gone should have gone 510 15 years ago. But I’m glad that we’re finally going to get there. So I think we’re going to have a very interesting couple of years, and change is clearly afoot.

Randy Johnston  24:54

Well, we have the clear opportunity to live in interesting times. And I’m glad that you’re spending time with us in these interesting times. We’ll talk to you again in another accounting Technology Lab. Good. Dale,

Brian F. Tankersley, CPA.CITP, CGMA  25:07

thank you for sharing your time with us. We’ll be back next Saturday with a new episode of the technology lab, from CPA practice advisor. Have a great week.

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